Love letters from Ningaloo. Does cold water help whale sharks get hot?

by | Jun 17, 2023 | Ningaloo, Wildlife

Love letters from Ningaloo (pic: Sara Barbieri, Ningaloo AUSTRALIA)

Read time: 4 minutes

We speculate on whether Whale Shark have sex in the cold and dark 2000 metres below sea level – have Japanese scientists stumbled across the answer to this ongoing conundrum? Also, Tim Winton, acclaimed Australian author, has produced a powerful new TV series about the significance of the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area.

Love letters from Ningaloo

Is it love or privacy that makes Whale Sharks dive into the depths?

Whale sharks dive very deep, sometimes to 2000 metres. So, although they feed near the surface they regularly enter water that’s frigid and pitch black. But what do they do down there and how do they see anything?

What happens in the depths remains a tantalizing mystery. But no-one knows where or how whale sharks mate. Maybe they like privacy and prefer to bonk in the blackness. If so, how do they find each other?

Japanese researchers reckon they know the answer but it’s a bit complicated, so let’s keep it simple.

Does cold water help whale sharks get hot?

When whale sharks plummet into deep water their bodies cool causing their eye pigments to modify which allows the sharks to see blue light.

Because blue is the ONLY colour that penetrates into deep oceans the change in whale sharks’ eyes enables them to see — and possibly find a mate! But what’s fascinating is what come next.

As these ocean giants return to the surface — for a post coital feed? — their eyes revert to normal vision.

So….cold water helps whale sharks get hot! Puts a whole new meaning on “pouring cold water” over a situation.

Tim Winton’s love letters to Ningaloo

“Where the desert has its feet in the sea” is how Tim Winton describes Ningaloo in his documentary, “Ningaloo Nyinggulu”, about a place that stuns everyone who goes there.

Winton is a wordsmith which shows in every poetic phrase in the documentary as he tells us about this “refuge in grand isolation”.

Dubbed as his love letters to Ningaloo this not to be missed 3 part documentary aired on ABC TV in mid May 2023

In the promo, a head shot of an approaching Whale Shark dwarfs a shoal of silver fish before it fills the screen. Winton, his voice quavering at times, tells us about his favourite place in the world: Nyinggulu, the Aboriginal name for Ningaloo.

He has fought to protect Ningaloo for years. This documentary is a dramatic outlet for his passion for protecting the place from huge mining and extraction industries.

“Ningaloo was created by a clash of ancient continents. It’s survival now depends on a clash of ideas”, says Winton as he leads us into a debate about the challenges already impacting on Ningaloo.

“Ningaloo is a beacon of hope at the edge of the abyss,” he says, “A place that could teach us how to get things right, if we just pause a moment…..and listen.”

You can watch the full series on ABC iView here:

Watch the trailer.

Come to the home of Whale Sharks & write your own love letters to Ningaloo

Each March and June we head to Ningaloo to guide our small group Island Birds and Whale Sharks 8 day expedition. You can plan your trip with us now.

To wet your whistle here’s a photo gallery of love letters from Ningaloo


from The Conversation: Whale sharks gather at a few specific locations around the world

to Exmouth Dive & Whalesharks Ningaloo for their support
to Sara Barbieri for her extraordinary photos and enthusiasm for ocean life

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See similar posts: Ningaloo | Western Australia | Whale Sharks